Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so pleased to bring you Normandie Fischer. Normandie is a new author to me, and as I did the interview, I found myself totally falling in love with her heart and her view of the world. I hope you fall in love with her, too. And, check it out! Normandie is giving away a copy of her book, Heavy Weather! Read below to see how you can enter to win.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a life-long sailor, and although I’ve been writing and editing professionally since the seventies, the works published before my fiction debut are barely visible on the horizon these days. My husband and I retired from cruising Pacific Mexico in our ketch, Sea Venture, to care for my aging mama, and the three of us sailed from Beaufort, NC, to NYC in 2013 to publicize the release of Becalmed and to welcome my first grandchild into the world. I now have a second grandchild and six novels out and about for the world to read. My quiver overflows.
Tell us about your most recent release. Twilight Christmas is the third in my Carolina Coast series, a novella that picks up where Heavy Weather left off. I needed to figure out what happened to the romantic pair we’d left on the brink of something. Plus, I had Louis and Linney—a Down Syndrome child–hiding out and fending for themselves. It’s a heartwarming tale of magic and miracles where the Beaufort, North Carolina, folk return to rescue more than themselves.
I’m also thrilled to announce that Heavy Weather just came out in audiobook format. Narrator Laura Jennings did a superlative job.
If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? I think that’s a question every author who tries to follow God must confront. In a recent Novel Rocket post, I touched on our longing to be more, to be seen, to long for more. In another post, I wrote about wanting the ripples from our words touch hearts. We’re human, which means we crave acceptance from others, and yet sometimes God asks us to write for an audience of one—Him. I think He wants us to trust Him with the outcome of our endeavors. We give Him our all, and what He does with that is up to Him. If we truly trust that His Word and His promises are true, then we’ll do what our hand finds to do, and we’ll do it with all our might.
I remember when a very successful businessman asked me what I planned to do to make my mark in the world. I know my eyes widened, but his question got me wondering how I felt about what I had accomplished—and how the Lord felt—because I was a dumpee from a 23-year marriage, not a young woman, and not a success in the world’s eyes. Before that man asked his question, I hadn’t worried about how the world saw my choices. I’d been doing my best to serve my Lord, I’d raised two incredible children, I was taking care of my elderly aunt, who for the first time had a family in which she could live and thrive and where she could hear about God. Wasn’t that enough? Besides those blessings, I also had the privilege of writing, and my sculptures adorned homes and offices around the country. Wasn’t that enough?
My auntie met the Lord during her nine years with me. If taking her in and loving her had been all I ever did, wouldn’t that be enough? If loving my children and trying to show them Jesus had been all I ever did, wouldn’t that be enough? And if one person’s heart is touched by my words, won’t that be enough?
I am so incredibly privileged that I get to write stories. I loved sculpting, but this gig? It just blesses the socks off me. (Don’t you love that saying? It provides such a visual!)
Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? No. I write what I want to read and trust that it will go where it should. It’s difficult to write, as I do, for the general market when the majority of books out there have elements I just won’t embrace, but I’ve still found readers who’ve been touched by my characters, and I’m grateful for them. I decided early in my writing career that I would write what I felt I was called to write and not worry that it didn’t fit neatly into anyone’s box. I’ve been pleased to discover readers in both the Christian and the general marketplace.
How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? My first two books were traditionally published, but I hit a roadblock with my third (my second Carolina Coast novel) because the publisher of Becalmed was in a transition period and wanted me to shrink it to a prescribed word count. Because I’d been a professional editor and knew how to oversee the production of a manuscript, including the most important process of finding a good editor, copy editor, and proofreaders, I decided to try indie-publishing that book.
I’m glad I took that route. I love my editors, my critique partners, and my proofreading street team, my cover designers. Together, I believe we turned out a few good products that have been well received. Heavy Weather finaled in the 2016 RWA Award of Excellence and the Maggie, both for strong romantic elements. Two from Isaac’s House was a Romantic Times Top Pick, and now I have two novellas, From Fire into Fire and Twilight Christmas.
I’m also thrilled that I’ve had control over the production of audiobooks. Two from Isaac’s House released in audio format this summer, and now we have Heavy Weather, whose narrator will also complete Twilight Christmas by March.
Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I’m a pantser. I begin with a scene or an idea and my characters take me where they will. It’s delicious fun!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Read really good books, classic books, and learn to listen. Everyone has an idea of how to write, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to read voraciously and let beautiful words capture your imagination and hone your love of language.
Then write. And write. And write. Always be willing to rewrite.
I had a sculpture teacher who used to walk up to students and tell them to throw their clay back in the bin and start over. Chuck it all. Pound out a new batch. It hurt. You’ve got to be willing to do that with your writing. Because we’re called to excellence. To becoming the best us we can be. Not the best someone else. The best us.
I think too often writers settle. Especially with the ease of self-publishing. They read a book, decide they can do as well, and figure that’s enough.
It’s not enough. We should strive to be the best, not in comparison to someone else, but in comparison to what we did yesterday or the day before. In comparison to what we can be.
Dig deeply into the language, into plot, into meaning, into character, into dialogue, into description. And then dig more deeply yet.
For example, I sent my revised manuscript for Twilight (after it had been critiqued and I’d rewritten it) off to its editor. This is editor who knows me, loves my work—but also knows I want to be the best I can be, that I never want to settle. So, she cleared her throat (I’m sure she cleared her throat) and wrote, “Dig deeper. This part is boring. You can do better with this scene. Fix this one. Cut. Slash. Redo. Sigh. Boring.”
This was my eighth book, my sixth novel. I wanted to write back, “You fix it!” because I felt cross-eyed, paralyzed. But then I pulled up my big-girl pants and dug in. And I fixed it. And it was better.
Our work can always be better—if we’re willing to do the work.
I’m the sort who will keep on rewriting and revising until a book is perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist, but we can try to come as close as possible.
How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel. What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them? I’d written non-fiction, technical books, and a narrative non-fiction as work for hire, along with a good deal of poetry. I was also a sculptor who one day decided sculpting for others bored me, and it was time to see what I could do with my other passion, the written word.
As an editor, I’d been cutting and honing; now I needed to enlarge. To see the world with all my senses. To learn plot and dialogue. To listen, to touch, to feel, to taste, and to see—and to put it all down on the page. My learning became purposeful. I read every book I could find (bought everything Writers Digest Books published on crafting a novel), and I wrote with a vengeance when I wasn’t home schooling or working for my then-husband.
I love challenges. In 1990 I began a novel based on a what-if and written as a counter to all the kick-butt/take-names heroes and heroines on the best-seller lists. I finished it in 1991 and took it to my first writers conference in 1994. It won me the best new writer of that year and requests from some of the biggest names in Christian fiction publishing who’d nominated me for that award. Only, I didn’t write what they considered “Christian” fiction. I wrote from a Christian worldview, but they wanted coming-to-Jesus moments spelled out and finalized. One of them wrote me a beautiful two-page letter saying that if I wrote a book to those specs, he wanted to see it.
Life went on. A husband left. I survived. I found one agent and then another. I wrote for others, but I didn’t feel called to write the book those editors wanted, and so my writing foundered until recently. But that book? The one that won me that award? I rewrote it, and now it’s one of my favorites, Two from Isaac’s House. It even has a baby sister, From Fire into Fire.
What is your inspiration for writing? Life–what I see around me, what I experience, what I overhear, and what others have told me of their pain. I begin stories based on a perceived need that begins as a scene and grows, fleshes out as the characters reveal themselves to me.
Which of your characters most reflects your personality? Probably Sam in Sailing out of Darkness. I’m very good at guilt and took years to get the truth of God’s love to slip from my head to my heart where I could really believe it applied to me.
I assume when you start a book, you pretty much have the plot laid out. Do you ever change your mind later on in the book, and go in a different direction? Plot laid out? You must be talking about someone else.
An idea shows up or a scene or a sentence. I meet my characters. Occasionally I know where I want them to end up. But most of the time, they lead the story. Twilight Christmas came about because my next Beaufort book (Shoal Waters) grew too crowded. I’d met some new folk, and I was trying to plot out the book so it would also tie up some loose-ish ends (an HEA, but not a finalized one) from Heavy Weather. Oops.
I’m perfectly happy to have multiple story lines in my books, but Shoal Waters (my delicious next Carolina Coast novel) had become top heavy. So I snipped two characters out and let them hang with the orphans I’d been introduced to whose story clamored to be told.
What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done? I never thought I’d be married to my best friend. I didn’t even know a husband could be a best friend. But God rescued me, and He rescued my beloved at an age when most would have thought us over the hill and too old for a romantic story of our own. I never thought I’d be able to live on a boat and sail the seas, but God gave me this man who dreamed the same dream, allowing us to practice friendship evangelism wherever He led us. Isn’t it delightful that we’re never too old? And that our story can keep growing and enlarging and becoming always more purposeful?
Find Normandie online:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Normandie-Fischer/e/B00BSIF2NI/
Find Normandie’s book Heavy Weather on Amazon:
Win a copy of HEAVY WEATHER!
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